Toolbox of Hope

Yesterday as we prepared for another icy mess in New York I was reminded of a post I wrote last year, Making Our Own Spring. I wrote the post in the midst of a March snowstorm when hope of Spring was blanketed by cold, icy snow.

We are at that point again in the winter when it seems Spring will never bloom. Once again, there are vibrantly colored flowers in my kitchen. The bright fragrance that greets me when I enter my home leads my mind to believe that the weather outside is warmer. If only for a moment I delight in that thought before I am brought back to the reality that ice is on its way. There are so many things in life we cannot control, weather being one of them. Some years winters drag on longer than others. This seems to be one of them. It is how we react to these long, dark periods that shapes our days.

As a bereaved mom, I have had my fair share of long, dark periods, winter or not. The dark has shedded light, out of necessity, on my needs for survival. One of the necessities of my “new normal” is my toolbox of hope.

The agonizing, unending pain of losing a child was so horrifying in the beginning that I had to seek refuge in anything. There was no escaping it. It was the most stifling, terrifying pain I ever experienced. That pain forced me to seek out activities, treatments and friends to renew any bit of hope in my life. Some treatments, like acupuncture, scared me. I tried it anyway and found relief in it. There were even times it helped me to connect with Christian. Other activities were less daunting, like coloring. It had been all the rage but before losing Christian I never really tried coloring as a stress reliever. In my search for anything associated with joy after the tragedy, I tried it and it worked as a calming agent for me before bed.

Some things in the toolbox don’t help the first time or the second time, but they help the third. Some things help for three days straight and then not again for a year. All of them remain in my toolbox of hope though.

Despite the many tools I have gathered and used, I am not immune to feelings of hopelessness filling my soul, clouding out any bit of light. The clouds are filled with lies, ready to burst at the sight of something that threatens to puncture them. When we completely abandon hope, the clouds rain down a deep saturating rain of lies. Our mind believes that the sun will never show itself again and spring will never come. Just as in nature, the truth is lingering there in life waiting to be validated. Sometimes it needs repetitive validation for our own mental health. This may need to happen hourly, sometimes daily, sometimes infrequently. If we hang on to the truth that nature and life is cyclical, we avoid giving the lies of hopelessness power. It’s not a magic answer. It is a continuous effort. It takes willingness and work. The more you practice it though, the longer the distance grows in between periods of hopelessness.

The pain of child loss is no longer inescapable for me like it was in the beginning. It will never leave me. It’s always there but I do get reprieved from it. Time teaches bereaved parents how to live around their pain. Tools teach us how to grow around our pain.

Since January I have been in a bit of a funk. Tools that have been helping me for over a year seem to not be working at this point. Feelings of hopelessness are creeping in. It’s hard to stay determined, hard to stay the course. It feels like I am clawing at an uphill mountain. Not only am I exerting more effort than usual but it its not getting me anywhere. Small things are irritating me. The self judgement is harsh. Turning to my toolbox of hope has helped. There are some tools in there that I haven’t used for years but I am finding them to be helpful again. There are days I don’t have the energy to look at my toolbox of hope. The important thing is that on days when I have the slightest bit of energy, I reach in, pull something out and try it. More often than not just that bit of action procures hope.

Hopelessness ignites a war within ourselves. No one is comfortable in that emotional state. The toolbox of hope are the tools we can use to fight off the enemy. The more we gather, the more power we have over our enemy. The tools also help to make us more resilient. It doesn’t make us immune to hard times, it just helps us fight them. Keep building up your toolboxes of hope! Love to heaven…

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